MOSCOW, Sep 11 (Reuters) Russia has tested the world's most powerful vacuum bomb, an explosive device unleashing a destructive shockwave with the power of a nuclear weapon, the military said today.
The bomb is the latest in a series of new Russian weapons and policy moves unveiled as President Vladimir Putin tries to reassert Moscow's role on the international stage.
''Test results of the new airborne weapon have shown that its efficiency and power is commensurate with a nuclear weapon,'' Alexander Rukshin, Russian deputy armed forces chief of staff, told Russia's ORT First Channel television.
''You will now see it in action, the bomb which has no match in the world is being tested at a military site,'' the state-controlled channel said. It showed a Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bomber dropping the bomb over a testing ground. A large explosion followed.
Pictures followed of what looked like a flattened multi-storeyed block of flats, surrounded by scorched soil and boulders.
''The defence ministry stresses this military invention does not contradict a single international treaty. Russia is not unleashing a new arms race,'' the channel said.
Such devices generally detonate in two stages. First a small blast disperses a main load of explosive material into a cloud, which then either spontaneously ignites in air or is set off by a second charge.
This explosion generates a pressure wave that reaches much further than that from a conventional explosive. The consumption of gases in the blast also generates a partial vacuum that can compound damage and injuries caused by the explosion itself.
''The main destruction is inflicted by an ultrasonic shockwave and an incredibly high temperature,'' the report said.
''All that is alive merely evaporates.'' ''At the same time, I want to stress that the action of this weapon does not contaminate the environment, in contrast to a nuclear one,'' Rukshin said.
Reuters TB VP0110